Through a unique collaboration with the Reef Life Survey (RLS) program, which engages recreational SCUBA divers trained to undertake scientific surveys, this project involved the first comprehensive survey of marine biodiversity of important Coral Sea reef systems. Through project activities, as well as follow up surveys currently underway at additional Coral Sea reef systems, detailed surveys of fauna and flora on the majority of shallow coral reef systems located in the offshore Coral Sea region will provide an enormous and valuable body of new knowledge of this remote, relatively unexplored part of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone. This provides a baseline data set that will become increasingly important in future years for tracking changes to biodiversity in the new Coral Sea Marine Commonwealth Marine Reserve, and understanding the distribution and impacts of threats to Coral Sea marine plants and animals. Important findings included the discovery of in excess of 100 fish species not previously recorded in the Coral Sea, and high relative abundances of large black cod and Galapagos sharks at Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs.
Stuart-Smith, R.D., Crawford, T., Cooper, A., Kininmonth, A., Stuart-Smith, J., Berkhout, J. & Edgar, G.